Never handle grounded bats. Don’t touch baby deer. Avoid duck eggs—after imprinting, they will be rejected by the mother. Their lives require isolation. Your father raised you to respect all life. But then the two of you found a stray pigeon fluttering in the barn’s rafters. Frightened the bird might contaminate the straw and infect the other animals, your father knocked it from its perch with a stone and with callous hands and heart calmly fetched his pitchfork. It was both revelation and betrayal. Afterwards, bloody tines glinted red in the dusk and the bird lay still beside the woodpile, now drying in sun and wind. Your father never meant all life. He meant only life that did not intrude, that required no extraneous exertions of love and care. Late that night you retrieved the animal with bare hands and buried it, alone, beneath rocks and dirt beside the purling creek. All around you were faint sounds of life—chirrups and flutters and sighs of wind—all of it, like you, so desperately frail.